Friday, August 26, 2011

Turkey Crossing

On the drive to work this week, a little more than a block from our house, I turned the corner and saw up ahead what I thought was a tree that had come down in the previous night's windstorm and was blocking the street. As I looked straight into the morning sun, the obstacle appeared large enough to make me contemplate a short detour.

That is until I noticed the mass was moving! I quickly realized I was driving toward a flock of wild turkeys.

Turkeys are not strangers to our midtown neighborhood. In fact, we have our own small flock of up to seven who roost in the trees in our backyard, feast on the insects and seeds in our lawn and garden and use our acreage as a pass-through to wherever turkeys go during the day.

"Our" Tom strutting his stuff

What I hadn't previously seen in our neighborhood was a dozen--yes, 12--turkeys at a time. On this warm, sunny morning, they took their time crossing the street and as I waited for them to pass, a form of the childhood riddle ran through my head: Why did the turkey cross the road?

In the year-plus since our own smaller flock appeared on the scene, I haven't figured out where the turkeys go during the day--and why. At night, they roost in the trees along the back of our property, which sits at the top of a steep ravine that drops steeply to a small, shallow creek.

Every morning, like clockwork, they fly down from their roosts, have a light meal in the yard, work their way to the front and eventually cross the street and disappear through the neighbors' yards. They return at the same time every evening, have another meal and, on queue, fly one by one into the trees to retire for the night. The hens roost together. The Tom roosts in another, nearby tree.

Dinner on the lawn

Heading home to roost

Goodnight, turkeys.

During mating season, a second, younger male joined the flock. I'm told he'd be called a Jake. For a while, he hung back--around the fringes of the flock. Slowly, he began to make advances toward some of the hens. He and the Tom put on a grand show of full regalia every day.

One evening I was in the house and heard what I thought was a car wth the sub-woofers booming away. But, the sound didn't move on, so I stepped out to have a look. Unbelievable! The two males were going at each other like Sumo wrestlers, flapping a few feet up into the air, bumping chests and crashing to the ground. That was the booming sound I'd heard. They kept at it a while, bumping, biting, fighting, squawking and hissing. Eventually, they called a truce and limped out toward the back of the yard. I was so caught up in the spectacle, I simply stood there frozen--too engrossed to think about grabbing my camera.

After the smackdown, I noticed three deer taking in all the action from the edge of the ravine. The hens of course, also looked on, as did our black lab from a nearby window.

Over the past year, we've spent countless hours observing, chuckling at and cussing the turkeys. They're interesting, quirky, funny and grandiose. They also scratch and peck up the lawn and garden, leave poop everywhere and snack on my grape tomatoes. Argh!

For a short time after mating season, our flock disappeared for a while.  I worried about them, missed seeing them go through their routine and watching the pecking order play out. And, then, as suddenly as they disappeared, they returned before winter set in.

 What's a little snow?

Shake a tail feather!

The flock is down to three this summer--Tom and two hens. Wish I knew what happened to the others. Perhaps they were among the dozen crossing the street this week. With that morning sun in my eyes, I couldn't say for sure.
Linking to:
A Southern Daydreamer


  1. What a fascinating story! I would love to have some turkey residents in my neighborhood, eating my bugs and entertaining me. I'm a little jealous =)

  2. Now that's an interesting story! But I know my own chickens do a number on our backyard (which has become uninhabitable for plants or people due to the marauding chickens scratching and pooping -- I can only imagine the doings of a large flock of turkeys!

  3. my kids ensure that the local pheasants or neighbours chickens don't dig up our garden, at 2 and 4 years old they just chase any unfortunate animal or bird that dares to enter! love the photos! ;)


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